For most of us, the dream – if it really is one – of being a professional football manager never extends beyond a few games of the cleverly-titled Football Manager video game series, and the occasional barked order from the sofa when watching a televised match of a weekend. But if, in some bizarre parallel dimension, you woke up to find yourself appointed as the new boss of a top flight side, you, I and everybody else would presumably use the summer transfer window as a way of improving the team’s weaknesses by recruiting sensibly.
For example, if we consider those who habitually challenge for the Premier League title, we see that both Liverpool and Arsenal – who finished fourth and fifth last term remember – are still to sign any defenders, despite conceding some 86 goals between them in 2016/17.
Manchester United, who scored 31 goals less than champions Chelsea, have replaced the only player in their team who could score, Zlatan Ibrahimović, with one who might find the net in Romelu Lukaku.
So our conclusion might be that those three teams are likely to regress yet further, or certainly not improve anyway, as they are yet to tackle their problem areas.
Reigning champs Chelsea have bolstered their defence and midfield with the signings of Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko respectively. But they will probably lose Diego Costa, and his expensive replacement – Alvaro Morata – has been a consistent goal-grabber down the years but is yet to sample life in the Premier League. Have the Blues progressed this summer then from a personnel perspective or floundered? We’d probably call it a draw.
Tottenham have ‘outperformed’ their expectations for two seasons running, although they are still to tackle the elephant in the room: what happens when Harry Kane’s goals dry up? Adjusting to life at Wembley Stadium will also be tricky, and we might expect Spurs to slip out of the top three as a result.
So that leaves Manchester City, who have no problems in attack but do have some pretty dire ones in defence. So what they have they done? Splashed out £120 million on three full backs and £30 million on a new goalkeeper.
Is it is as simple as opening the chequebook and buying your way to success? Perhaps, perhaps not, but at best odds of 2/1 to win the Premier League title, backing Man City to do just that could be an excellent move on the part of smart-minded punters.
The Case for Manchester City
Making a case for the Citizens is a doddle. They only lost 6/38 Premier League matches last term, and if they can turn some of their nine draws into wins then they are more than capable of winning 90+ points.
They have a new goalkeeper in Ederson, and while little is known about him he can’t do much worse than Claudio Bravo, can he?
City are one of the richest clubs in the world, which is why their full back pairing of Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy raised more than a snigger last season. In 2017/18, Pep Guardiola will have the enterprising duo of Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy, plus Danilo, to call upon. If he can keep Vincent Kompany fit and somehow stop John Stones giving the ball away in dangerous areas, the Mancunians’ defence will be sorted.
Some fresh legs might be required in midfield to take the strain from Fernandinho and Yaya Toure, although don’t forget Ilkay Gundogan will be back from injury.
In attack, well, take your pick. The irrepressible Sergio Aguero is joined by Gabriel Jesus in putting the ball in the net, with the ammunition provided by an impressive support cast which includes Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and new man Bernardo Silva.
City have balanced the requirements of a domestic assault with Champions League duty in the past, and their squad is comprehensive enough to do so again. Those odds of 2/1 look absolutely huge.
The Case Against Manchester City
To play devil’s advocate for a moment, the case against City is based upon the fact they finished some 15 points behind champions Chelsea last term. That is not an inconsiderable amount.
Questions over the fitness of Aguero and Kompany are rarely far away, and John Stones needs more protection than that afforded to him by the leg-heavy midfield shield of Fernandinho and Toure.
Will the new keeper settle into English football? Will Mendy and Bernardo adapt to the hustle and bustle of the beautiful game in this country? These are questions that only time can answer.
Take all the above into consideration and, for us, there are still more plusses and minuses against the name of Manchester City after their £200 million spending spree. That cannot be said for many of their main rivals.